WITH A MAGICIAN OF CAIRO 93
refused to accept a single pupil. Eventually I shall be bound, by the laws that govern our fraternity, to initiate someone before I die, so that this knowledge may be kept alive among mankind. As, however, I know the exact date of my death, I shall carry out my obligations in good time."
The old man paused. I was pleased at having succeeded so marvellously in weaning him out of his reticence, but would he continue? I gave him another lead, this time in the form of a question about his own initiation.
"Let me tell you a little of my story," he answered. "I was born sixty years ago in the town of Suag, which is in the province of Girga. My own father was a famous professional magician and astrologer. Ever since I can remember, the art in which he dealt attracted me greatly; fascinated me, in fact. My father noted this tendency of mine and told me that he would initiate me eventually and bring me up to follow him in the same profession. He owned a number of ancient Arabic manuscripts and rare books on the magic arts which he let me read and study. As soon as he had initiated me at the age of eighteen, I left home and made my way to Cairo, where I joined the El Azhar University. Here, I devoted myself to literary and religious studies, but I kept my secrets entirely to myself. I had brought a few of my father's manuscripts with me and these I continued to study at home. One thing I learnt was the different kinds of human nature, until I became so expert that I could tell at a single glance what a man's character únd desires were.
"I left the University at the age of twenty-eight and thereafter lived much alone, practising further until I felt strong enough to have complete command over my genii. It was then that I adopted this profession and let myself become known. And unless one can get this strength it is far better to leave the thing alone. My sons begged to be allowed to learn my knowledge, but I put them to other subjects, because I saw that they lacked the courage necessary to make a successful magician.
"I practised astrology also, and many Egyptians of high rank found me out in time and often came to have their fortunes told. Princes, ministers, Pashas and wealthy merchants have sought my advice. A Minister of the Court of Abyssinia has consulted me, while last year I had a visit from the daughter of the Abyssinian Emperor. Once the Sultan of Morocco sent a special envoy to me with certain letters.
"Another year four thieves broke into my house at night,